Pete Carroll met with the media on Thursday from Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center to preview his team's upcoming Monday Night Football matchup with the Detroit Lions at CenturyLink Field. Here's five things we learned from the Seahawks head coach:
1. What Challenges The Lions Offense Brings
The Lions are expected to rely heavily on the arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford during Monday night's game in Seattle, because as Carroll put it on Thursday, that's where the team's strengths lie. Detroit ranks last in the League in rushing offense, averaging just 45 yards per game. But their passing offense features a pair of Pro Bowlers in the 6-foot-5, 237-pound fast and physical Calvin Johnson and the former Seahawk Golden Tate, who led the Lions with 99 catches for 1,331 yards in his first season with the club last year.
"They're a committed throwing team because their strengths are really there," Carroll said. "[Rookie running back Ameer] Abdullah has looked really good in the numbers of carries that he's had. He's a very special addition to those guys. Golden is fitting in great in the slot for them, Calvin is such a dominant football player that it draws your focus, and Matthew Stafford can throw everything. He has every throw that you need and they go after you."
Carroll said he expects a difficult matchup for the Seattle secondary as they work to cover Lions wideouts who possess a unique ability to pick up yards after the catch.
"That potential to put a ton of yards on the board and you can cover guys and they can still make plays and they can run and catch with it after," Carroll added of the Lions offense. "All of that makes them very difficult."
2. Jimmy Graham's Blocking Should Get Better
Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham averaged 89 receptions, 1,099 receiving yards, and 11.5 touchdown catches the past four seasons for the Saints. Blocking wasn't necessarily on Graham's radar in New Orleans, where his team utilized a more pass-heavy approach than the run-first looks the Seahawks like to use. While Graham has provided plenty of production in the passing game for Seattle so far, he's also been asked to do more blocking than he's done at any point in his career. Carroll assessed Graham's work in that area through the season's first three games.
"He's willing and he's learning," Carroll said. "This is new for him. He's a rookie in our system of learning how to block like we need him to and he's done some good things and he's had some things that've got away from him. There's a lot happening there. He's an offensive lineman on some of those plays and there's a lot to learn. His attitude about it is great and his work habits in practice are on it, so I think he's going to continue to progress and get better."
3. The Offense Line Has "All The Right Stuff"
The Seahawks have surrendered 12 sacks through the season's first three weeks, an average of four per game that ranks tied for second-most in the NFL. On Monday, Carroll said not all of the team's problems in pass protection can be pinned directly on the offensive line, noting Seattle's quarterback can get rid of the ball quicker and its receivers can do a better job getting open. Still, for a unit that features two new starters in center Drew Nowak and right tackle Garry Gilliam, and a left guard in Justin Britt who spent all of last year at right tackle, there is plenty of room for improvement, as Carroll reiterated Thursday.
"We knew that they were not going to be a finished product as we started this season off, but we do like their approach and their toughness and their mentality about learning, the discipline that they're trying to generate in their play," said Carroll. "They've got all the right stuff to make up a good group, so it's just time. This is a very difficult aspect of our game. Offensive line is the most complicated and they're just working through it."
Carroll said Seattle will use the same starting five against the Lions on Monday with left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy joining Nowak at center, Gilliam at right tackle, and Britt at left guard.
"They have to be together," Carroll said. "They have to be out there playing the games. They have to go through the experiences and share them, come back and re-evaluate what they could do better, use the wisdom that [offensive line coach] Tom [Cable] and the coaches can bring to them, and bring it to life in their play. It just takes time. It just doesn't happen automatically. We don't like that we have to wait for these guys, but it's the natural process and we've just got to go through it."
4. Russell Wilson's Responsibility in Pass Protection Will Improve
With the Seahawks working in new faces along the offensive line, the team has asked more of its quarterback Russell Wilson in terms of making adjustments to protections at the line of scrimmage. Carroll shared insight on how Wilson has performed in setting up protections in conjunction with the center Nowak.
"We're the best we've been," Carroll said. "It's the best we've been because of the experience, but still the timing of things is going to improve, I think. Our ability to use the seconds on the clock to make the adjustments we have to make, everything can get processed fully, and we can take advantage of that. That's going to improve for us."
Carroll said he expects Wilson, who's in his fourth season, to get better at making the calls going forward.
"There's tons more for Russell to learn, there's all kinds of stuff for him to gain," Carroll said. "He's just a fourth year guy. If you want to compare him to the guys that are really doing a great job in this League, those guys have played twice as long, and sometimes three times as long as he's played. Just imagine how far along he can come in the years ahead. He's making great progress, he's working at it, but it's still a work in progress, still developing, and that's a cool part of it. We're going to get better."
5. Seattle's Penalty Numbers Are Down
Carroll was more than happy to address a question about the team's lack of penalties through the season's first three weeks. The Seahawks have racked up the most yellow flags in the NFL over the past two years, but to start 2015 Seattle has been penalized 18 times for 179 yards, which is tied with three other teams for the second-fewest flags in the League.
"How about it? We kind of don't even want to talk about it, it's kind of like a no-hitter thing around here," Carroll joked. "But I'm really fired up. We've worked really hard and I don't know that we're emphasizing it any differently, or any better. I think our guys are more experienced. They understand. We're making good decisions and let's see if we can hold onto that right now in a time - which is interesting - in a time when the penalties are higher than they've ever been. There we are at the other end of the spectrum again. For some reason we find ourselves in these kinds of situations often, but we're going to try to max it out, take advantage of it."
- The Seahawks are taking a "wait and see" approach with running back Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (groin) when it comes to the pair's availability for Monday's game against the Lions. Digital media reporter John Boyle updated the team's injury status earlier Monday in an article you can check out right here and Thursday's official practice report for the Seahawks and Lions is available right here.
- Terrelle Pryor, who spent time in Seattle as a quarterback, recently worked out at wide receiver for the Seahawks, "Yeah, we brought him in to throw the football to him as a receiver," Carroll said. "He played receiver this year at Cleveland for the first time. Had about a month of preparation from when he went to camp, so he's really raw in learning but he's an extraordinary athlete, and he showed that."
MNF shifted the practice schedule, making Thursdays practice "Competition Wednesday" and featured a pop of pink as the players get their gear ready for the annual October Breast Cancer Awareness game.